2nd over: India 10-0 (Sharma 4, Gill 6) As Australian heads continue to shake under their baggy greens, Cameron Green rolls in to Shubman Gill. This is the 23-year-old Gill’s 14th Test but he only has 736 runs at 32 with just one century. He looks to be a man in form though, as he straight drives Green for four. MAGNIFICENT SHOT! And in worse news for the Australians, replays of a later Starc delivery that ducked between bat and pad show it didn’t catch the edge… but struck the pads BANG IN FRONT. Australia have claimed two wickets in one over and blown them both with poor reviewing (of poor umpiring, admittedly).
1st over: India 4-0 (Sharma 4, Gill 0) Huge appeal first ball! It’s India captain taking strike to Mitchell Starc with the big quick hoping to get his side off to a sensational start as he so often does… and he almost does! That ball was right in the channel and it almost shaved Sharma’s outside edge. Or did it? Wicketkeeper Alex Carey didn’t seem as excited as his bowler and Steve Smith opts not to review. Exciting start! GREAT BALLS OF FIRE! Replays show it got an edge! Australia coach Andrew McDonald has his head in his hands already. And now he’s wincing as Sharma smacks a four through midwicket.
Mitchell Starc reckons his finger is “good enough” to play five days Test cricket (if we get there). “If I only played when I was at 100 per cent I would have only played five or 10 Tests,” he reckons. “I’m happy with where it’s at and I’ve built up enough of a pain threshold to deal with that stuff over the past 10 or 12 years.”
With Starc and Green back in the fold, this seems a better-balanced Australian XI. Yet batting is where Australia have been found wanting on this tour.
On camera we can see the Indore wicket has a little grass back of a length but is otherwise hard dirt. Insiders say it is a tricky place to get in, but if you can survive the initial assault, runs can be abundant, particularly with such short boundaries.
Australia have been able to break through the top-order in both Tests so far but the India tail of Ashwin, Jadeja and Patel has defied them over and over. To foil such stubborn resistance, Australia has a new weapon with Mitchell Starc’s ability to extract tail-enders unmatched. The huge footmarks he creates outside the right-handers’ off stump will assist his spinner teammates too. But after months on the sideline nursing injury, will that fickle finger of Starc’s hold out?
So Australia have backed their spin trio to do the job in the third Test, with Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green back to handle the pace duties. The latter’s selection means Peter Handscomb is promoted in the batting order to No 5.
Australia XI: Khawaja, Head, Labuschagne, Smith (c), Handscomb, Green, Carey, Starc, Lyon, Murphy, Kuhnemann.
India XI: Sharma, Gill, Pujara, Kohli, Iyer, Bharat, Jadeja, Ashwin, Patel, Yadav, Siraj
India captain Rohit Sharma calls correctly and backs his batters to put up a total while endorsing his spinners to grind Australia’s bones on the final day.
Before the coin toss here at Indore, there’s time to park your peepers on Geoff Lemon’s preview of the third Test…
Namaste comrades! Welcome to the Holkar Stadium in Indore for this third Test between India and Australia in the 2023 Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Unfortunately for Australia, that trophy belongs to India after two convincing victories in Nagpur and Delhi. But there is plenty yet for the green caps to play for. They can square the series with victories here and fourth Test venue Ahmedabad… although India has twice won by 10 wickets inside two days at the latter, with Ravi Ashwin and Axar Patel claiming 35 of the 40 wickets on offer.
So let’s set sights a little lower: if Australia draw or win the final two Tests they can secure a spot in the World Test championship against, you guessed it, India. More vitally, they can restore some pride in the badly battered baggy green cap.
After their crazy capitulation in Delhi, Australia has been pilloried in the press and piled-on by a legion of Test greats who deplored their T20 ‘hit out until you get out’ approach and lemming-like devotion to the sweep shot. The implosion was all the more shocking for the fact Australia was firmly in the ascendency when the innings began. But it’s funny old game cricket, especially in India.
Anyway, let’s not look back in anger. Fittingly, India’s quest for a clean sweep will continue today in ‘India’s cleanest city’ on a desert-like pitch where Steve Smith reckons “we are going to see a lot of spin bowled”. Soothsayer Smith is Australia’s stand-in captain for this Test and the next, after Pat Cummins last week flew home to Sydney to be with his mother, Maria.
Also back home are the injured quick Josh Hazlewood, opener David Warner, and discarded spinner Ashton Agar. It means a reshuffled Australia XI for Indore: allrounder Cameron Green and fast bowler Mitchell Starc are expected to return from their finger injuries to bolster both batting and bowling stocks, and Travis Head will remain as Usman Khawaja’s opening partner for now. India will remain unchanged although there’s talk Shubman Gill will come in for KL Rahul, who missed the optional nets session with a niggle.
Will Australia again play three spinners in Nathan Lyon, Todd Murphy and Matt Kuhnemann? Or will a tweaker make way for seamer Scott Boland… or the only unblooded man on tour, pace prodigy Lance Morris? Can the Australian men’s side take inspiration from the T20 World Cup triumph of Meg Lanning’s team this week? Or the fighting spirit of New Zealand’s Black Caps who blew up “BazBall” to snatch an amazing one-run victory over England.
All will be revealed shortly so sit tight, we’ll soon be underway…